Seeking God in Nature: An Ecocritical analysis of Jupji Sahib by Guru Nanak Dev

Romy Tuli
- Romy Tuli

Abstract-
Indian Hagiography can be seen in the light of the theory of Ecocriticism. There are several aspects dealing with the environment in Hindu mythology that talk about the importance of plants and animals at different spheres of life. Even in Vedas as well, there is an immense use of natural objects along with spiritual and physical knowledge at different levels of mythology. They express how human life is incomplete without Nature including plants, animals, and atmosphere. At the time when Guru Nanak Dev, the writer of Jupji was born, the country India was facing religious, social and political crises. The politics was affecting the society so adversely that it was only the common man who was facing all tortures. Such conditions led to the lack of emotional and psychological satisfaction of the people. During such circumstances, Nanak’s interest grew towards the searching of spiritual peace. Reading of Jupji from Ecocritical perspective describes that though human beings are essential part of the various ecosystems but they are not the Supreme Beings. The Almighty has created the whole world and has assimilated himself to his creation. So in order to reach to God, reach to nature first.

Keywords: Ecotheology, God, Nature, Supreme 

The environment is the ultimate source of life as without it life seems impossible and it is the be all and end all of everything. The environment is something that can be taken as the synonym of surroundings which means everything around us whether plants, trees, animals, insects, reptiles, air, water and even human beings. One of the best things is that it is procreative and regenerating, that is, it can repair the loss done to it up to some extent. Plants and trees can grow on their own, animals can reproduce and increase their number, land can become fertile again and again through floods and even water can be purified automatically in the underground by passing through a lot of gravels and sand. The environment, highly rich in flora and fauna at different geographical areas, is the provider of food and shelter to the entire living community. 
Indian Hagiography can be seen in the light of the theory of Ecocriticism. There are several aspects dealing with the environment in Hindu mythology that talk about the importance of plants and animals at different spheres of life. Such as growing Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi) at home has a mythological interpretation that it is the symbol of purity but according to medical science, it serves the purpose of medicine in curing diseases such as cough, cold, migraine, stomach infection, and fever. Lion is called the vehicle of Maa Durga because of its ferocious nature and it represents the daring attitude of the female sex. In this way, it comes under the theory of Ecofeminism. Ficus religiosa or sacred fig (Peepal) is one of the sacred trees as it is the biggest sources of oxygen.
Even in Vedas as well, there is an immense use of natural objects along with spiritual and physical knowledge at different levels of mythology. They express how human life is incomplete without Nature including plants, animals, and atmosphere. The four Vedas are a very crucial source of Ayurvedic medicines. Many herbs are discussed in the Vedas that were used in ancient times for the treatment various health problems. To name only a few, these plants are Giloy, Tulsi, Bhillataka, Amla, Arjuna, Punarvaha, Mulethi, Aparmarga, Pippali, Brahmi, and much more. These are even used today in daily life.
The term Ecocriticism can be described as;
The study of literary texts with reference to the interaction between human activity and the vast range of ‘natural’ or non-human phenomena which bears upon human experience – encompassing (amongst many things) issues concerning fauna, flora, landscape, The Environment and weather. (Childs and Fowler 67)
Our environment consists of many ecosystems such as Marine, Grassland, Desert, Tundra, Freshwater and so on. There is a coherence in these ecosystems as if any element disappears from the earth, the whole system will be collapsed.
Sikhism is an integral part of Hinduism as there are many stories of Hindu mythology such as of Lord Krishna, Droupadi, Lord Rama, Maa Durga and Pootna available in the sacred text of Sikhism, that is, Guru Granth Sahib. The description of environment is there and is termed as qudarat which is considered as the amalgamation of humans and non-humans.
Guru Nanak Dev Mehta is considered as the founder of Sikhism who was born on Katak’s Purnima in 1526 AD at Rai Bhoye’s Talwandi (Nankana Sahib, Shekhpur) now Pakistan. At the time when he was born, the country India was facing religious, social and political crises. The politics was affecting the society so adversely that it was only the common man who was facing all tortures. Such conditions led to the lack of emotional and psychological satisfaction of the people. There was no positivity among them and the religious practices had taken the shape of superstitions. The monetary value in the social system had reached to its optimum level and the blood relations were also sacrificed only for the sake of money (Saint 38).
During such circumstances, Nanak’s interest grew towards the searching of spiritual peace. It has been said that before writing Jupji, he went inside a river and did not came back for three days. In this work, he has described the value of Karma (deeds) and Mukti (liberation) along with the habits that society should develop in order to live a peaceful life. This work also talks about After Life and says that the way to get liberation from the cycle of birth and death is available only in this world. Jupji can be seen in the light of humanism as well that how the correlation of human beings with other fellow beings can led to a spiritual satisfaction. It is said here that God is within all the creatures, including human beings, and in order to make the almighty happy, it is advisable to serve his creation. Reading of Jupji from Ecocritical perspective describes that though human beings are essential part of the various ecosystems but they are not the Supreme Beings. The Almighty has created the whole world and has assimilated himself to his creation.
Ecotheology is the study of the ‘interrelationship’ of the environment and the religion and expresses the concept that God is assimilated in Nature (Unitingearthweb.org). This concept of Ecocriticism raises many questions on religious stereotypes of divinity which have been prevalent through ages. Greg Garrard has also pointed as;
“But if God is identical with the universe, arguably that eliminates the distinction, basic to traditional theology, between how things are and how divine providence would have them be” (Garrard 68).
Other issues are doubtful such as if God is present in the Nature itself then why there is the conception of heaven and hell? Can miracles actually happen? And so on.
Pondering over the term Ecocriticism, that is, the study of literature from the point of view of Nature and Natural entities and it is the re-reading of the older texts from the same perspective, Jupji Sahib can be seen as an Ecocritical text.
            Considering the views of Guru Granth Sahib, the most sacred text (anthology) of Sikhism consists of the Banis of the various Gurus,  regarding the creation of God and Nature;
ਆਪੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਆਪੁ ਸਾਜਿਓ ਆਪੀਨ੍ਹ੍ਹੈ ਰਚਿਓ ਨਾਉ
ਦੁਯੀ ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਸਾਜੀਐ ਕਰਿ ਆਸਣੁ ਡਿਠੋ ਚਾਉ . . . . .
ਸਚੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਖੰਡ ਸਚੇ ਬ੍ਰਹਮੰਡ
ਸਚੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਲੋਅ ਸਚੇ ਆਕਾਰ
ਸਚੇ ਤੇਰੇ ਕਰਣੇ ਸਰਬ ਬੀਚਾਰ
ਸਚਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਅਮਰੁ ਸਚਾ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ
ਸਚਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਸਚਾ ਫੁਰਮਾਣੁ
ਸਚਾ ਤੇਰਾ ਕਰਮੁ ਸਚਾ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ
ਸਚੇ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਖਹਿ ਲਖ ਕਰੋੜਿ (463)
‘Oh the Almighty, you created yourself and then you created the qudarat (Nature) and you live within that Nature and assimilates within it. . . . . The universe and the parts of Nature. What you have created is the ultimate truth. You give life to the millions of creatures.’
Thus, it can be seen that Jupji Sahib by Guru Nanak Dev also brings the unification of the Nature and human beings.
ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ॥
ਜਪੁ॥
ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ॥ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ॥ ੧॥ (Nanak 2)
‘He is the one who is omnipresent named as satnam or God. He is the one who has created the whole world and He is Self Created and has no fear and no enimity. This can be understood by God’s grace. Recite and meditate. He is the only truth now and from the ages, Nanak, and will always be.’
            There is the vision of the Supreme Lord who is the creator of the Earth and all the elements of Earth belong to him. Not only created but He is assimilated in the Nature as well.
Ecopsychology deals with the concept that how the environment affects the psychological setup of the human beings. It helps human beings in regaining their lost psychological setup and making them realise that the true comfort which has been lost in highly social and materialistic world can be found in Nature itself. It makes them realise that how their inborn instinct to harmonise their heads and hearts is connected to Nature. Ecopsychology ignores the scientific terms pertaining to Nature such as the concept of genes and rather it connects Nature to spirituality, wilderness and emotional bonds. Ecocritics have also focused on the idea that how an affinity with Nature helps a person to tackle emotional and psychological pains and achieves a calm and peaceful bent of mind. These ties are visible in the case of love for their land. “[The human beings] are mnemonic: integrated components of a sacred history and the remembered and unconsciously felt past” and they enter into a “genetic heritage” and the “sedentary peoples would employ the landscape psychodynamically, as a tool of self-recognition” (Shepherd 24). Soon it becomes difficult to fetch out human behaviour alone from the impact of their surroundings. The loss of their land and Nature appear to them as loss of their identity.
            Ecopsychology can be practically seen as effective in day to day life such as a person who is weary of the daily struggles of life finds peace in spending some time alone near a sea or a lake. Sometimes, a person feels comfortable walking on wet grass in the morning which not only helps in giving relaxation to eyes but also helps in relieving psychological stress.
ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜਾਪੈ ਦਿਸੈ ਦੂਰਿ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵੇਖੈ ਹਾਦਰਾ ਹਦੂਰਿ॥ (Nanak 7)
‘Some say that He appears too far while other say that He is present in every particle of the surroundings.’
This line can be seen in the light of Ecopsychology as God, being assimilated in Nature, is perceived differently by different beings. As discussed above, the attitude of human beings who remember and forget their ties with the Nature view it accordingly. The identity of human beings is dependent upon it.
            As Nature is the creator of every being, it is the provider of the essential needs of these creatures as well.
ਦੇਦਾ ਦੇ, ਲੈਦੇ ਥਕਿ ਪਾਹਿ॥
ਜੁਗਾ ਜੁਗੰਤਰਿ ਖਾਹੀ ਖਾਹਿ॥ (Nanak 4)
‘The Lord is giving a peaceful life to all the creatures permanently and these creatures become tired but He does not stop. They are consuming everything given to them from the ages.’
If the Lord is providing them every basic necessity then it is quite clear from the line that the poet is expressing the pro-creative power of Nature as all the living beings are enjoying the life of peace and comfort provided to them.
            There are frequent references to guru or master in the text as in order to harmonise oneself with God or Nature, one has to be a student to some master. Now, the question arises that who the master is. Jupji Sahib itself answers the question several times by relating the meanings prescribed in the text to Hindu Mythology.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਦੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਵੇਦੰ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਈ॥
ਗੁਰੁ ਈਸਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਗੋਰਖੁ ਬਰਮਾ ਗੁਰੁ ਪਾਰਬਤੀ ਮਾਈ॥ (Nanak 5)
‘The knowledge about that Lord can be attained through a Guru (Master). Through Master only, it appears that the Lord is omnipresent. Guru is Shiva, Brahma and Parvati for us.’
The lines make it ample clear that for co-ordinating our self with God, we need a Master and this is the only master who is again God for us. But who is the master?
Further, the question is answered as;
ਪਵਣੁ ਗੁਰੂ ਪਾਣੀ ਪਿਤਾ ਮਾਤਾ ਧਰਤਿ ਮਹਤੁ॥
ਦਿਵਸੁ ਰਾਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਦਾਈ ਦਾਇਆ ਖੇਲੈ ਸਗਲ ਜਗਤੁ॥ (Nanak 1)
 ‘Air is the master, Water is the father and Earth is the mother of all the creatures. Day and night are the games in which whole of the world is participating. All the beings are doing their duties at day and night respectively.’
These lines describe the idea that all the particles of the Nature such as Air, Water and Land are related to the beings and are the basic spiritual necessities. These lines also reflect the concept of Deep Ecology which can be defined as;
Deep Ecology is a holistic approach to facing world problems that brings together thinking, feeling, spirituality and action . . . This leads to a deeper connection with life, where Ecology is not just seen as something 'out there', but something we are part of and have a role to play in. (Johnstone)
Deep Ecology thus states that there is a deep connection between all the ecosystems and it removes the notion of man centeredness. Where the environment is presented as the Supreme Being such as in the form of blood relations, the hubristic attitude of the human beings discards automatically. 
ਜੀਅ ਜਾਤਿ ਰੰਗਾ ਕੇ ਨਾਵ॥
ਸਭਨਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਵੁੜੀ ਕਲਾਮ॥
ਏਹੁ ਲੇਖਾ ਲਿਖਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਇ॥
ਲੇਖਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਕੇਤਾ ਹੋਇ॥ . . . 
ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕਵਣ ਕਹਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ॥
ਵਾਰਿਆ ਜਾਵਾ ਏਕ ਵਾਰ॥
ਜੋ ਤੁਧੁ ਭਾਵੈ ਸਾਈ ਭਲੀ ਕਾਰ॥
ਤੂ ਸਦਾ ਸਲਾਮਤਿ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰ॥ (Nanak 16)
‘There are many species of beings on Earth which the Lord has created Himself. But neither any human being can estimate the variety of these species nor he can measure the creative power of the Lord. . . . Human beings have no power to influence Him even once as they are not even comparable. Oh the Almighty, you are eternal. Humans should accept everything gaily that is ordered by you.’
The lines express the notion of de-centeredness of human beings by repeating and naturalising the idea that humans have no power as compared to the creation of numerous species by the Almighty or the Nature. In the last lines, the willing acceptance of the order of Nature implies that if once the humans consider the environment as the superior one to themselves and tries to harmonise with the same then the identity crises will ultimately withers away.
Ecospirituality is the intersection of Ecology and Spirituality in which there is the involvement of the scientific knowledge of Ecology and the interference of Religious ethics. The collaboration is something closer to the people of a community both emotionally and spiritually. It is an urge of the people to get freedom from highly materialistic society and suggests a way back to Nature and their Spiritual interests which give them liberty enough to spend their life in an eco-centric world.
            Valerie Lincoln, in “Ecospirituality” has defined the term as, “a manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment” (227). In Indian Aestheticism and Religions, there is an in-depth relationship between Nature and the religious values of the people such as worshipping of plants like Tulsi and Peepal. Not only plants but animals, insects, birds and reptiles occupy the same place such as ‘snakes’ are worshiped on Nag Panchami, ‘lion’ is linked to Goddess Durga, ‘cow’ is considered as one of the sacred animals, ‘peacock’ is loved for its piousness and much more.
As suggested by Ecospirituality that the love for Nature can give us eternal peace of mind. The idea can be reflected in the lines;
ਗਾਵੀਐ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਮਨਿ ਰਖੀਐ ਭਾਉ॥
ਦੁਖੁ ਪਰਹਰਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਘਰਿ ਲੈ ਜਾਇ॥ (Nanak 5)
‘Sing and Listen the chants of Almighty and satisfy ourselves with His love. It will help in attaining spiritual peace of mind.’
The lines express that the musical remedy for curing all the mental woes is the remembrance of the God (Nature) and it can act as a medium of healing the issues of identity. It provides peace of mind as well. It means that the link with Nature can be a spiritual medicine for human beings.
ਸੁਣਿਐ ਸਿਧ ਪੀਰ ਸੁਰਿ ਨਾਥ॥
ਸੁਣਿਐ ਧਰਤਿ ਧਵਲ ਆਕਾਸ॥
ਸੁਣਿਐ ਦੀਪ ਲੋਅ ਪਾਤਾਲ॥
ਸੁਣਿਐ ਪੋਹਿ ਸਕੈ ਕਾਲੁ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਭਗਤਾ ਸਦਾ ਵਿਗਾਸੁ॥
ਸੁਣਿਐ ਦੂਖ ਪਾਪ ਕਾ ਨਾਸੁ॥ (Nanak 10)
‘Nanak, by meditation and indulging one’s self into the name of almighty, the person can gain eternal happiness. After listening to the meditative chants of His, one can gain freedom from all the sins. After ruminating oneself to the name of God, the feeling of Donation comes to the mind automatically. The person can get that satisfaction which he can gain after travelling to eighteen pilgrimages. The sophistication that humans gain through reading can be attained after assimilating oneself to God. After listening to Him or his name, the fluctuating psyche can achieve consistency.’
Here, the lines can be read in a way which describe the psychological consistency that can be attained after listening to the name of Lord. Here, the listening to the name can be viewed as listening to the melodious chants of Nature. Nature has a music of its own. If one loves Nature, then the person can gain eternal bliss from it. The knowledge about Lord can be considered as the knowledge about vastness of the Nature. If one gets correlated to it then the issues of identity can be solved as man is also a by-product of the Lord and Nature.
            Sikhism talks about finding God though master or guru and Jupji Sahib can be read in a way that God is omnipresent and He is the creator of the whole world. The Ecotheological study of the book suggests that He has not only created but has dissolved Himself to it. The book, sometimes, suggests human beings to attain oneness with the Almighty while at the other times, it glorifies the creation of God and de-centres man by expressing the greatness of the God. There is the amalgamation of Humanism and Ecocriticism but the humans are considered as one of the elements of Nature only as there is condemnation of narcissistic attitude of human beings. The meditative mood of the writer proposes the readers to search the Almighty by seeking spiritual truth within humans and non-humans. So in order to find him, it is suggested that one should search the inner self.

Works Cited

Childs, Peter and Roger Fowler. The Routledge Dictionary of Literary Terms. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2006.
Dev, Guru Nanak. "Jupji Sahib." Nitnem. Amritsar: Jeevan Printers, n.d. 2-73.
Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. Oxfordshire: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2012.
http://www.gurugranthdarpan.com. n.d. Web. 16 October 2017.
Johnstone, Chris. thegreenfuse.org. n.d. Web. 21 August 2016.
Lincoln, Valerie. "Ecospirituality." Journal of Holistic Nursing (2000): 227-244.
(Saint), Seva Singh. Guru Granth Sahib Darshan. Hushiarpur: Gurudwara Rampur Kheda, 2007.
Shepherd, Paul. Nature and madness. Georgia: University of Georgia Press , 1998.
 Unitingearthweb.org. n.d. Web. 17 October 2017. <http://www.unitingearthweb.org.au/about-us/1-what-is-ecotheology.html>.


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